Some park-and-rides along the Gold Line may be expanded to help preserve access to federal funds.

The Federal Transit Administration released ratings on Monday for projects across the country it could potentially help fund. The Gold Line received an overall project rating of "medium-low," with projects needing at least a "medium" rating to be eligible for funding.

The Metropolitan Council's planned bus rapid transit line, which would provide round-the-clock bus service to east metro suburbs, is counting on $207 million from the FTA, or about 45% of the total project cost.

"The main issue is ridership," Met Council spokesperson John Schadl said in an email. "Gold Line is taking an approach that emphasizes development at our stops over parking. This creates more value for the communities served by the line."

But it's easier to quantify the effect of parking spaces on ridership than things like coffee shops or retail located near stations, Beckwith said. An expansion of some of the project's four planned park-and-ride lots, an expansion of about 350 parking stalls, could help edge the project toward eligibility when it comes to the FTA's ridership model.

Beckwith explained the "innovative approach" planners are trying to take with the Gold Line, balancing development around stations with park-and-ride space.

"The station area becomes a destination," she said. "There's more to offer at the station areas that will draw more riders and make even the park-and-ride itself more of a benefit."

A map of the planned METRO Gold Line Bus Rapid Transit line. Courtesy of Metro Transit
A map of the planned METRO Gold Line Bus Rapid Transit line. Courtesy of Metro Transit

Monday's rankings, released as part of President Donald Trump's annual budget, don't take any of these potential changes into account. Beckwith said the project will be officially re-evaluated sometime this summer, but Metro Transit will know earlier than that if the parking additions are the solution.

Beckwith emphasized that it was the Gold Line's first federal ranking and called the partnership between Metro Transit and the FTA "collaborative."

"They had to publish their report, and this was the data they had at the time," she said. "It doesn't mean they (have) stopped working with us."

Design of Woodbury's station platforms and surrounding areas is expected to begin in late 2020. Current plans include 21 stations along the bus line, with three in Woodbury: one at the Woodbury 494 Park and Ride on Woodlane Drive, one near Woodbury Theatre on Guider Drive and one on Tamarack Road. Parking areas are planned for the Woodbury 494 Park and Ride Station and the Woodbury Theatre Station.